Author’s Note: This is Part II in Book I of my series Tales of the West. You may read Part I: “Milly” here.
Genres: Fiction – Western/Action/Romance
Please be aware this story has elements of violence, gun violence, murder and death.
Ethan played by Boyd Holbrook
When Ethan returned to the house, he went straight for his room and shut the door behind him. He didn’t know how long it was before he realised what he was doin’ but he was pacing the length of his room for what seemed like hours.
He had to tell his brothers he saw Milly. But how? How was he supposed to tell them that the woman he brought into their gang had turned on them and was now helpin’ the law?
Ethan couldn’t even put that thought together in his head, let alone tell his brothers. And how could he have got it all so wrong? What if Milly was the one huntin’ them down and not Eli?
If it were Milly that went to the law, did that mean that Earl was innocent?!
Did MILLY kill Earl and Jed too? Could she have done this?
For a moment, Ethan couldn’t believe they had found each other again. After roaming for so long with hardly any leads on where she might be, and then, she appears out of nowhere as if she were just hidin’ this whole time.
Ethan wanted so many things to happen–he wanted him and Milly to go back to how they were before things went bad. He wanted Milly to not have to feel like he was responsible for her parent’s deaths. And most of all, he wanted to hold Milly in his arms, to feel that she was still alive–that she was still the Milly he longed for.
But Ethan knew that none of that could happen now–not with the way things were. Milly had been hunting him and the other members of the Jackson gang for months now. She had become the one thing he never expected–his enemy.
Ethan kept pacing until he got so tired he just fell where he stood and let exhaustion do the rest.
When Ethan woke the next morning, he felt like a train had hit him. He felt so bad he couldn’t get out of bed. So he just stayed there with his back to the door. It was some hours before anyone was brave enough to knock on it.
Floyd and the others stood there staring down the hallway at Ethan’s door.
“What d’ya spose is stricken’ Ethan?” Lincoln said
“He gets like this sometimes… rarely mind but someone should check on ‘em,’ Jason said
Floyd walked towards the door and leaned in to see if he could hear anythin’ comin’ from Ethan’s room.
Silent as the grave.
Floyd signalled to the others that he couldn’t hear him behind the door.
Jason lifted his hand and knocked in the air.
Floyd nodded and lifted his fist to the door and gently knocked a few times.
“Ah… Ethan? Ya’ll okay in there? You hungry or anythin’? Jason made some beans,” Floyd said.
Ethan heard his brother callin’ for him. But he didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t hungry, and he didn’t want to have to face his brothers and tell them what he discovered about Milly.
But he also knew that he had to tell them something. Their lives were on the line and Ethan didn’t have the right to keep it from them. And seein’ that Milly didn’t kill him when she could have, he weren’t sure if that meant he was still a target or not.
It confused Ethan. He didn’t know what to feel. Part of him was happy to finally see Milly after so long, but that lasted for all of a minute when she started talkin’ about Durham. The more she spoke, the more he wanted to disappear into his bath water.
The biggest thing Ethan was struggling with was not takin’ the initiative and killin’ her when he had the chance. She was unarmed the whole time while she was washin’ herself. He had his knife–he coulda taken that knife and…
Ethan grabbed onto his pillow and buried his head into it.
How was he supposed to tell his brothers he had Holden’s killer in his grasp and let her go…?
Did he just betray his brother’s memory? Did he just betray everything that the Jackson brothers stood for?
He started punching the pillow over and over.
“Ethan?” Floyd called again
Ethan stopped moving and just lay there for a moment.
Then he got up, pulled on his clothes inside out and opened the door to Floyd standin’ right outside it with a grin on his face.
“Coffee?” Ethan mumbled, walking past Floyd
“Get him some coffee, boys!” Floyd called out
Floyd was just happy to see Ethan get up. Sometimes, he wouldn’t leave his room for days.
Ethan slowly made his way to the kitchen and the bright light from the sun outside was making his headache worse. But he shrugged it off and sat at the table as his brothers fussed over him, puttin’ down his coffee and his beans.
Lincoln sat at the other end of the table and stared at Ethan.
Ethan didn’t like it, but he couldn’t be bothered tellin’ him so.
Ethan drank down some of his coffee, picked up his spoon and played with the beans.
“What’s happenin’ Ethan?” Floyd said sitting next to him
Ethan slowly looked up.
“Got somethin’ I need to be tellin’ ya and I ain’t sure how to say it is all” Ethan said, lookin’ back down at his beans
“Just tell us straight… whatever it is,” Jason said
Ethan nodded but didn’t speak right away
The silence was awkward and Ethan just knew everyone was lookin’ right at him, waiting for him to speak.
Ethan cleared his throat.
“I saw Milly” he said, without lookin’ up
“What?! Well, that’s great … ain’t it?” Floyd said, smacking Ethan on the back.
Ethan was shakin’ his head
“Where is she then?” Jason said.
“She didn’t come back with ya?”
Ethan dropped his spoon into the beans
“She ain’t comin’ back caus’ she… uh… she’s the one that… “
“That what, Ethan?” Jason said
“She got Holden killed… she’s the one… she got Holden killed dead!” Ethan blurted out the words without thinkin’.
A sudden feelin’ of relief came over him.
The brothers looked at each other
“That can’t be right Ethan… we were all there, and there weren’t no Milly when we ran into those deputies,”
“I’m tellin’ ya… she told me she was there–and she knew all about Holden. She was there with the law!” Ethan said.
Jason stood up
“So … yer sayin’ she told you last night that she was the reason those deputies were waitin’ for us in Durham? And Earl weren’t the one who betrayed the gang?” Jason said.
Ethan looked up; his eyes bloodshot from cryin’.
Floyd put his arm around his brother
“Did she kill my brother? Did she kill Jed?” Lincoln said.
Ethan just shook his head
“I dunno … I dunno if it were her that did that. And I dunno if she killed Earl neither. All I know is she were there,”…
The gang sat there in silence
“Okay… Ethan, you need a day or two to rest on this. We understand but we need to be thinkin’ on a plan before she does anythin’ else” Floyd said.
Ethan shook his head
“She knows we’re here; she’ll go right back to the law and tell ‘em, ” Ethan said
“She must a made some sort a deal with the Sheriff to hand us over,” Jason said
“What we gonna do?”
“If the law are on their way here, we should get on outta here,” Jason said
“You still wanna run?” Ethan said.
“I ain’t doin’ nuthin without a fight and if that means we need to run–we need to run” Floyd said
“I’m with ya on that, Floyd,” Lincoln said
“Let’s get our stuff together–if we get on the road soon, we’ll still be ahead of ‘em,’ Jason said
The gang took what they could and got their horses saddled and ready. Ethan felt better with somethin’ to do to get his mind off everything.
The Jackson’s said their goodbyes to their homestead. They didn’t know if they’d ever return. Ethan felt like somethin’ had been’ ripped on out of him. He carried around a wound nobody else could see. But it went deep this time. Deeper than he’d ever felt before.
All the things he thought of sayin’ to her when he saw her again … like dust risin up, lost on the wind. What he had felt for Milly was slowly turning into somethin’ else. And he had to get his head straight before he saw her again.
If he ever saw her again…
-END OF PART XXXIV-
You can read Part XXXV of Ethan’s story right here.